Monday, August 26, 2013

Becoming What You Pursue...

In 2 Kings 17, we find the sad story of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel's last King, Hoshea, is defeated by Assyria. Samaria, the capital, falls. The northern 10 tribes of Israel are captured and deported and Israel is no more.

The writer goes on to tell us (2 Kings 17:7-18) as to why this happened. They had sinned against their God. They had worshipped other gods. They lived according to the customs of the ungodly nations. The secretly did wrong and built high places, Asherah poles and served idols. The Lord warned them through His Word and His prophets that they should not do these things yet they continued. And then, the writer states...

"They pursued worthless idols and became worthless themselves..." (2 Kings 17:15)

We serve an infinite, loving God. He loves us so much that He even allows us to choose our ways. We can choose to follow Him. We can choose to reject. While this in no way limits or diminishes the fact that He is all powerful and all knowing, it does create an interesting dilemma for us as a human race.

God seeks, calls and even yearns for us, His creation. Yet He also lovingly places in each of us the capacity to accept or reject His overtures. Love forced upon oneself is never true love. It has to come from a choice, a commitment of devotion. And, interestingly enough, what a person sets their heart on, or what a person pursues, is in many cases, literally what they become.

The Israelites in this story pursued worthless idols. They became worthless. Today, we also pursue so many worthless things: wealth, fame, recognition, etc. Look at the plethora of reality shows (a misnomer, no doubt) on television. Everyone wants their 15 seconds of fame. And who among us couldn't live with just a little bit more money?

While these things are not evil in themselves, the truth is plain in the Bible (and in life). What you pursue can be what you become.

Jesus said it a bit differently but with the same emphasis. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

If I am going to become what I pursue or treasure, I pray that every moment, every day, I pursue God. I pray that I pursue and treasure Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. I pray that I pursue His ways, His wisdom and His heart. I pray as the Psalmist...

"Lord, hear my voice when I call; be gracious to me and answer me. My heart says this about You, 'You are to seek My face.' Lord, I will seek Your face." (Psalm 27:8)

May we all pursue something worthy. May we all pursue the face of God.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Long Will You Hesitate Between Two Opinions?

I am sometimes appear to be an indecisive person. Whereas many of my friends and co-workers see clear lines and straight forward choices in their decisions, I often find myself in "gray" areas as to which is the best course or path to pursue. However, I don't seem to have the same problem when it comes to spiritual choices. I don't know about you.

I do know that one day, Elijah the prophet, came to a place in his life that he felt compelled to call the nation of Israel to make a choice. They gather at a place called Mount Carmel and he asks the assembled people,...

"How long will you hesitate between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21) A literal translation would be, 'how long will you continue on limping in your life, not being able to make up your mind, whether to follow the Lord Your God or Baal?

It is interesting that the people do not answer a word. Maybe they are afraid. Maybe they are sure of the choice. Maybe they are waiting to see...

Elijah proposes a test. He proposes that two altars and two sacrifices be prepared. One will be offered to Baal by the prophets of Baal (450 in attendance) and the other would be offered to Yahweh, Israel's One True God, and then they would wait and see which one is accepted. This would be evidenced by the God who would answer with fire.

Then the people finally answered, "That sounds good."

The Baal prophets built their altar. They sacrificed their sacrifice. They cried, danced, called out and even cut themselves - but there was no answer from Baal. They did this all day and still no answer. Elijah even taunted  them and the people of Israel began shifting and drawing closer to Elijah.

Elijah repaired the Lord's altar. He made the sacrifice. He made it harder by digging trenches and having water poured all over and around the sacrifice. He then prayed to God saying, "Answer me, Lord. Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back."

Fire comes from heaven, consumes Elijah's sacrifice, the altar and the water. God is shown to be the One True God. And when all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, "Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!"

From silence, to "that sounds good", to clear proclamation that Yahweh is God!

I pray that we never hesitate between opinions when it comes between choosing God over anything else.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unintentional Sin...

"When they (the children of Israel) sin against You - for there is no one who does not sin - and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy...and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart...may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place...May You forgive Your people who sinned against You..." (1 Kings 8:46-50 portions)

This is a part of Solomon's prayer when he dedicates the new temple. He makes a covenant with God on behalf of the people. He seeks God's favor whenever there will be transgressions, defeat by and enemy, drought, famine, etc. He then petitions God for times when His people even unintentionally sin against Him.

This past weekend, I had an unintentional sin. My wife and I had a full weekend of taking our youngest son to college, driving from middle to west Tennessee, driving back home and all of this was done without my driver's license. It was unintentional. I only discovered it when yesterday I had to make an purchase at a local retailer with a credit card and was asked for my photo identification. As I looked through my wallet, I realized that it was not there. Have you ever had one of those sinking feelings? I briefly panicked (on the inside) and my mind raced as to where in the world could my driver's license be? The store clerk was gracious and allowed the purchase, but as I returned to my truck, I was mentally running down the checklist of where I had last used it.

Then I remembered. I had applied for a new passport the past week. I had to make a photocopy of my driver's license for the application process. I returned home, went to the office, looked on the multi-purpose printer and there it was!

It was an unintentional and for the most part unknowing sin. However, if I had been stopped by a law enforcement officer during that time and asked about my license, it would have been a punishable sin as well. Unintentional and unknowing would not be a legitimate excuse.

Solomon pleads with God that when Israel was to sin against God - for there is no one who does not sin - that God would forgive them when they return to Him. The condition was that they return with their whole mind and heart, in humility, asking for forgiveness. He asks God to "hear in heaven" and "forgive Your people." And he asks this not for the people's sake only but for God's glory as well...

"For they are Your people and Your inheritance...For You, Lord God, have set them apart as Your inheritance from all the people on earth, as You spoke..." (1 Kings 8:51-53 portions)

While I am pretty sure that the law enforcement officers in my area would not have forgiven me my unintentional sin of forgetting my driver's license, I am very sure that God, if I return to Him with all my mind and heart, will forgive if only I ask.

Lord, forgive me today of those times that I have chosen my way over Your way. Forgive the sins that I have continued to fall into knowingly as well as those I have committed unintentionally. Make Your heart my heart and keep on conforming me daily to the image of your One and Only Son, Jesus.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Who Am I? A Prayer of Thanksgiving...

In 2 Samuel when God consolidates David power over Israel, David speaks a prayer of thanksgiving (2 Samuel 7:18-29). He sits in the Lord's presence and speaks/sings a song of praise and remarks...

1. "Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?" (2 Sam 7:18)

Shouldn't we all have this same attitude as David? Who are we that God has lavished His favor upon us? No matter what our lot in life, the simple fact that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" should spur us on to the same thanksgiving confessed by David. Who are we that God should favor us so much? Each of us in truth deserve death and an everlasting hell of separation from God the Father and Creator. We are all sinners and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet, because of His infinite mercy and great compassion, He has paid the full price of our sin-debt through the precious blood of His Son, Jesus, on a Calvary cross and has freely offered that sin payment to those who simply trust and believe. Who am I? Who are you? Who are we that we deserve such a great favor?

2. "There is no one like You, and there is no God besides You..." (2 Sam 7:22)

David lived in a time where the nations worshipped multiple gods. They went to war in the name of their gods believing that the most powerful one would always win the day. We live in a time of multiple gods. The obvious ones are those of competing world religions. The subtle ones are usually deeply engrained in our culture and harder to see: self-reliance, consumerism, practical atheism, etc. I pray to live my live always proclaiming to anyone who listens, "Taste and see that the Lord our God is good!" There is no on like Him and, contrary to culturally accepted values today, there is no other God beside Him. There are not many ways to God, only one and His name is Jesus.

3. "Do as You have promised, so that Your name will be exalted forever..." (2 Sam 7:25-26)

In the end, it all is about the glory of God. God and God alone is worthy of praise, honor and glory. Everything he as done since before the beginning and throughout the remainder of eternity is to make His glory known. As Piper say, all of creation is moving towards that one day where there will only be the white-hot worship of God. It is true that every knee will bow and every tongue confess. It is true that vast multitudes from every nation, tribe, people and language, will be standing before the throne and before the lamb crying out in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" God does keep His promises not for my personal benefit (though it is great) but in essence to make His name exalted forever.

Who am I that I should deserve Your favor?
There is no one like You and there is no other besides You.
Do as You have promised so that that Your name will be exalted forever.